| Barack Obama's biggest critic: Charles Krauthammer
| Wednesday, May 20, 2009
|By BEN SMITH
"He became Ground Zero among the neo-cons, but he's vastly smarter than most of them," said Time's Joe Klein, an admirer and critic who praised Krauthammer's "writing skills and polemical skills" as "so far above almost anybody writing columns today."
"There's something tragic about him too," Klein said, referring to Krauthammer's confinement to a wheelchair, the result of a diving accident during his first year of medical school. "His work would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he's writing about."
"My writing speaks for itself," Krauthammer responded in a curt email.
Krauthammer's politics are, more than anything, shaped by the familiar course of a hawkish former Democrat toward neo-conservatism.
"What's important about Charles is that he began life as more of a liberal," said the liberal Post columnist E.J. Dionne, who likes Krauthammer, and noted that he writes with a level of restraint absent from the works of conservative firebrands like Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter.
"Charles is not a hater, but he can be an intense disliker," he said.
Krauthammer's formative departure from liberalism came in response to the anti-nuclear movement of the early Reagan years. In 1981, he wrote a scathing attack on the massive Nuclear Freeze movement, which he now describes as "hysteria." The editorial, New Republic editor Marty Peretz told him at the time, cost the magazine more cancelled subscriptions than any before.
By coincidence, Krauthammer shares that formative moment with the president he criticizes. As a student at Columbia University, Obama wrote his senior thesis on nuclear disarmament. His first published prose, in a student magazine, discussed student efforts to prevent nuclear war, and criticized the "narrow focus of the Freeze movement" as insufficiently radical.
"I don't get caught in enthusiasms," Krauthammer said of the nuclear freeze movement, and of Obama's mass appeal.
The columnist says he doesn't hold any personal animus for Obama.
"This is a formidable, impressive, interesting man," said Krauthammer, wearing reading glasses around his neck, a black turtleneck and black jeans. "It's a privilege to live in a time where there's this kind of ferment."
The columnist is less impressed by the current state of the conservative resistance.
"It's completely incoherent, fractured and inconsistent," he said, calling the recent anti-tax tea parties "a perfect example."
"They were ostensibly about taxes. Obama hasn't raised taxes as of now by a penny. So what was all that about? It was a natural pushback by people who have sense of the government expanding rapidly in its size and control," Krauthammer said. "It was simply an inchoate reaction, the sort of thing that happens very early on in a very important and consequential presidency."
Leaving the verdict on the Bush Administration to "the next generation's David McCullough," Krauthammer also told POLITICO that he isn't rooting for Obama to fail.
|posted by citizen jerk @ 10:24 AM